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Cycling in Ireland’s emerald heart — the Ballyhoura Mountains

Ballyhoura (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Cycling in Ireland’s emerald heart — the Ballyhoura Mountains

Bike Touring Collection by Irland

9

Tours

26:58 h

248 mi

15,425 ft

In the southwest of Ireland, a cycling region of the highest order is hidden. Narrow, low-traffic roads take you to dreamy villages nestled in beautiful landscapes between hills and forests.

The Ballyhoura Mountains on the border of Limerick and Cork characterise this region. Cyclists of every description will find plenty here be it road or trails. No matter whether you want to ride strenuous routes with lots of altitude or prefer the cultural and gastronomic highlights of the region on a more relaxed ride, you’ll find something to your taste in this Collection.

We present four of the most beautiful Tours, all of which start and end in Kilmallock, a small town in the south of County Limerick. We also present five mountain bike Tours in the Ballyhoura Mountains. Thanks to the relatively mild climate, the rides are suitable for all seasons. These rides take you to natural and cultural highlights such as the idyllic Lough Gur, the stone circles of Grange and the sophisticated Castle Oliver as well as to authentic Irish villages such as Ardpatrick and Kilfinnane. A stop at a rustic pub is simply a must in Ireland.

If you prefer off-road to road biking, we have something for you too. The five mountain bike trails that we recommend all start at the trailhead at Ardpatrick, just a few kilometres south of Kilmallock. Here, you’ll find a bike wash, showers and a cafe for that all important coffee, tea and snack. If you don't have your own mountain bike, the Ballyhoura Trail Riders will be happy to help. Not only can you rent a mountain bike here, but you can also get tips, tricks and, if necessary, equipment for a day on the trails. Contact details and further information can be found at visitballyhoura.com/explore/ballyhoura-trail-riders.

Ballyhoura's trail network is unique in Ireland. More than 100 kilometres (62 mi) of lovingly-built trails of all levels of difficulty await you. Whether you're a beginner looking to improve your skills or an experienced rider looking for a real challenge, there's something for everyone in the Ballyhoura Mountains. The 6-kilometre (4 mi) Greenwood Loop is a great way to test yourself and your bike before attempting one of the longer, more technical routes. With the Castlepook Loop, there’s even a route almost 50 kilometres (30 mi) long that is guaranteed to challenge you. It's no coincidence that Ireland's national enduro championship was held here in 2015.

Dublin is the easiest airport to reach from abroad but there are individual connections to the regional airports of Kerry, Shannon and Cork. You can find a current flight schedule at ireland.com/plan-your-trip/travel/getting-to-ireland.

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
    Difficult
    04:09
    41.8 mi
    10.1 mph
    2,025 ft
    2,025 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The Ballyhoura Mountains in the south of Kilmallock shape the spectacular scenery of this tour. You circle the entire impressive mountain range and visit the tranquil Doneraile at the southern turning point, where there are various inviting places to stop. Incidentally, the church tower in Doneraile was the destination of the first documented Steeplechase horse race in the middle of the 18th century.

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  • Difficult
    04:55
    48.3 mi
    9.8 mph
    2,625 ft
    2,625 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This loop takes you east into the Glen of Aherlow. You can enjoy unique views of Galtymore Mountain and Seefin, the highest peak of the Ballyhoura Mountains. There are some climbs on your way, but you always have the opportunity to switch to a shorter version of the route. Especially after the passage of the Slieveragh, the way back is only a few hundred meters south of you, so you always have the option to shorten the round accordingly.

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  • Intermediate
    03:39
    38.1 mi
    10.5 mph
    1,075 ft
    1,050 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The round in the northern area of Kilmallock is relatively flat and relaxed, so you can concentrate fully on the highlights. And quite a few of them are waiting for you. Head to Lough Gur, a horseshoe-shaped lake and some of Ireland's most important archaeological sites. People who have left all kinds of traces have lived in this area for …

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  • Intermediate
    02:56
    29.6 mi
    10.1 mph
    1,275 ft
    1,275 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This tour takes you to the southeast of Kilmallock. For almost 50 kilometers you will explore the wooded hills in the area around Glenroe and Castle Oliver. It rarely gets steep and you can concentrate fully on enjoying the wonderful nature. After you've touched Kilfinnane, you climb the longest and highest ascent of the route and after the deserved descent you reach the small town of Ballyorgan.

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  • Easy
    00:27
    3.64 mi
    8.1 mph
    375 ft
    350 ft
    Easy mountain bike ride. Great for any fitness level. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The almost six kilometer long Greenwood Loop is the perfect loop for beginners who want to familiarize themselves with the Ballyhoura trail network. It consists of a mixture of not too difficult climbs and exciting descents on narrow paths. The entire loop runs on single trails up to 1.5 kilometers and is therefore ideally suited to get in the mood for the longer laps.

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  • Easy
    01:13
    10.4 mi
    8.6 mph
    975 ft
    950 ft
    Easy mountain bike ride. Great for any fitness level. Suitable for all skill levels.

    If you've mastered the Greenwood Loop without any problems, you'll find the next major challenge here. First you drive on the same trail, but then you follow the brown signs and turn onto the extended loop that awaits you with new challenges. Not only does it go up and down more, the trail also becomes rockier, more technical and generally a bit more demanding.

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  • Intermediate
    02:35
    21.0 mi
    8.1 mph
    1,950 ft
    1,925 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    With a length of almost 35 kilometers, you should be well prepared for this round. Not only are technical challenges and steep climbs and descents waiting for you, you can also reach higher areas where you are more exposed to the weather. It is best to always take a rain jacket with you as the weather in Ireland can change …

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  • Intermediate
    03:05
    24.5 mi
    7.9 mph
    2,300 ft
    2,275 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    The Streamhill Loop adds two more challenging loops to the Garrane Loop. Here you climb higher into the mountains and accordingly enjoy longer descents and new challenges. It shares the first few kilometers with the Garrane Loop, but when you see the blue signs you know that you are now in completely new terrain. So follow the blue signs and …

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  • Intermediate
    03:59
    30.1 mi
    7.6 mph
    2,875 ft
    2,850 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    The Castlepook Loop is the longest and most difficult combination of all of Ballyhoura's trails. Only embark on this lap if you are well prepared for changes in the weather and also have absolute control of your bike on all trails and under all conditions. Then the ultimate trail experience of the Ballyhoura Mountains awaits you with this loop. It …

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Questions and Comments

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    9
  • Distance
    248 mi
  • Duration
    26:58 h
  • Elevation
    15,425 ft

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Cycling in Ireland’s emerald heart — the Ballyhoura Mountains

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